The Essays of Elia and The Last Essays of Elia - Charles Lamb 1900 Circa - Thomas Nelson and Sons, New York Exquisitely bound by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, with frontispiece portrait of Charles Lamb and a contemporary Tiffany & Co. engraved bookplate of Cecil and Adelaide North. In two parts, with an introduction and notes by George Woodberry.

‘One of the classics of English prose and a cornerstone of the personal essay tradition. All personal essayists worth their salt owe a huge debt to this generous and generative collection... ; all apprentice essayists who would strive to make headway in the form will need to read it... Essays of Elia is not only an essential text, but a near-buried treasure, an all-but-lost masterpiece in our contemporary culture.’ - Philip Lopate.

Published under the pseudonym "Elia," Charles Lamb’s book, by turns witty, insightful, self-deprecating, and philosophical, offers an unusually warm, human glimpse of life in a circle that included such luminaries as Coleridge, Wordsworth, and William Hazlitt. Published in
The London Magazine in the early 1820s, these often nostalgic essays are important documents in the development of autobiographical writing which gained him a devoted following among 19th-century readers. - [from a recent edition]
  ‘A humble clerk with the East India Company for much of his life, Charles Lamb (1775-1834) came into his own writing essays "under the phantom cloud of Elia". This assumed name, borrowed from another clerk, enabled him to put the full resources of his wit at the service of a form to which he was temperamentally suited, and made his own.

Tragic domestic circumstances bound Charles to his sister Mary, with whom he lived "in a sort of double singleness", after she stabbed their mother to death in a fit of madness. Contrasting his tastes in reading with those of his sister, who "must have a story – well, ill, or indifferently told", Lamb confides that "out-of-the-way humours and opinion – heads with some diverting twist in them – the oddities of authorship please me most". Montaigne, whose presence hovers over the Essays of Elia (1823), would have approved.

Lamb's nimble, cadenced prose, with its occasional antiquated turn of phrase, exhibits the same curious mixture of erudition and colloquialism, of seriousness and jest, as that of his French predecessor. For his unruly "little sketches", Lamb, like Montaigne, quarries his own experience, his circle of acquaintances and relatives thinly disguised beneath initials and pseudonyms, just like Elia himself.

Evoked with rare sensuality, the minutiae of everyday life – a card game in "Mrs Battle's Opinions on Whist", the ritual of saying "Grace Before Meat", the perils of lending books in "The Two Races of Men" – are all grist to his mill. Essays of Elia certainly lends itself to repeated reading, and when Lamb's popularity was at its height, his Victorian and Edwardian readers could recite entire passages. Thanks to this elegant new Hesperus edition, Charles Lamb's forgotten masterpiece is ripe for rediscovery.’ - Agnieszka Gratza,
The Observer, 2011.

Lamb wrote in a letter to John Taylor of 30 July 1821 -

‘Poor ELIA, the real, (for I am but a counterfeit,) is dead. The fact is, a person of that name, an Italian, was a fellow clerk of mine at the South Sea House, thirty (not forty) years ago, when the characters I described there existed, but had left it like myself many years; and I having a brother now there, and doubting how he might relish certain descriptions in it, I clapt down the name of Elia to it, which passed off pretty well, for Elia himself added the function of an author to that of a scrivener, like myself.

I went there the other day (not having seen him for a year) to laugh over with him at my usurpation of his name, and found him, alas! no more than a name, for he died of consumption eleven months ago, and I knew not of it.

So the name has fairly devolved to me, I think; and ‘tis all he has left me’.

Provenance: Cecil and Adelaide North, with their engraved Tiffany & Co. bookplate.

Sextodecimo (binding size 16x14cm), pp. [4] xxi [1] 307 [1]; x 249 [5].
  In contemporary binding of full burgundy morocco, spine ruled lettered and with devices in gilt, boards with single gilt filet border and decorated corner pieces, front panel with gilt emblem, ‘monk strap’ devices along edges of sine, single gilt ruled turn-ins, patterned endpapers, all edges gilt.   Condition: Fine in near fine binding with moderate toning to spine and wrinkling to outer hinges.   Ref: 109728   Price: HK$ 4,200